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Old 06-24-2009, 08:53 PM
Location: Sitting on a bar stool. Guinness in hand.
4,428 posts, read 5,492,904 times
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Ok to be honest some of you might find this question a little out there....but I'm going to ask it anyway.

Do you think, that you (the persona of you) are the accumulation of your memories and saved experiences? Or is there something more to it?

Why I ask this is because I have had the new experience(s) of working in a hospital. And I have seen many Alzheimer’s patients at different levels come in. Now some have only the mild form of the disease and are mildly forgetful. And others I have seen would know there name if you said it. Now the people with the moderate to severe forms of Alzheimer’s got me thinking. Are these people really the same person they were prior to the disease? And if not who are they now?
After thinking awhile my answer is no.......no they are not the same person even though the body and the face is the same they were not the same person.

This in turn got me thinking...are our memories what make us who we are? Are they the essence of our being (selves)? I thought on this for awhile and my answer is yes....yes memory is what make us who we are.

Which begs another kind of weird question. Is the road to immortality (or something close to it less of sustaining the body, and more of retaining cumulative memories of a life time? I think the answer is yes.

But I would love to hear from you guys and see what you think of this.

Last edited by baystater; 06-24-2009 at 09:59 PM..
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Old 06-25-2009, 06:29 AM
Location: Oxford, England
13,036 posts, read 21,519,881 times
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We are in my opinion as human beings the sum total of our experiences, memories and moulded by our environment and culture to a great extent.

Memories do make the man in many ways as memories are based upon experiences which have shaped up and given us our truly individual nature.

We become what we have been, seen, done, tasted, etc... if that makes any sense.

Man is the only animal on this planet with a strong very developed sense of the self and that concept is one which develops itself from birth through the various experiences and interactions of our lives.

It is the great tragedy of illnesses like Alzheimer's that people lose themselves and loved ones lose the person they once knew. Our system of memory is to a certain extent almost what makes us human , the ability to truly encapture certain events and the way it alters us.

We retain our humanity still as for example people with amnesia and severe memory loss still function , but the essence of us is distilled so much that in a way to me we become former shadows of our selves and as such not complete.

I do find it interesting though that certain aspects of human socio-interaction are not necessarily negated by memory loss. For example losing your memory does not mean losing an innate sense of morality and personality traits often still remain but nonetheless memory making and retention is the mechanism by which humans truly find their true "selves", ther identity, not simply the biological one we are born with but the social one which from an Anthropologist's point of view is certainly crucial for most mental well being.

Most people who simply lose physical reminders of their memories in natural disasters/fires/burglaries etc.. feel a loss akin to grief because so much of our humanity and the principle upon we function have been altered and those memories are felt to be somehow negated by that loss.

I suspect most people deeply fear the loss of memory so much that physical reminders are their security blanket and when it is taken away it certainly leaves a gap which is difficult to fill.

At the end of the day human beings have since the dawn of time felt an urge to find a meaning in life and memories are the accumulation of experiences leading us to the confirmation and validation of our lives.

Our memories make us almost more than our genes as they give our lives meaning. Life without meaning is perceived to be futile and life without memories become a parody of life itself .

Memories are such a potent mechanism in humanity. They trigger emotions and feelings and without those we lose a little bit of the richness of our own self.

Humans need roots and memories are our roots. Without them we become incomplete. Which is why to put it over simplistically we have clung on to our own cultures, languages and families since man first came to be. We are pack animals, needed to be firmly rooted and validated by the shared memories of a people, a race, a faith etc...

Our roots define us whether we like it or not though I would argue we do take this a little too far leading us to warm, bigotry and the exclusion of the "other. In order to "belong" we follow the herd and those roots lead us to discard others.
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Old 06-25-2009, 07:03 AM
Location: nc
1,244 posts, read 2,450,117 times
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That's a really good question, I don't think it's out there. I heard the question raised about are we who we see ourselves to be or are we how others see us to be? You would ideally want to be how you see yourself to be I guess, that way you would be proud of your strengths and know your weaknesses and be able to work on them. But if we are nothing more than how others see us, then our persona (right word?) is nothing more than a part of theirs. So with Alzheimer's disease, I feel like, their in some altered state of existence and I like to think they're OK there. I mean for the time being there's not much we can do about it till someone has a break through in medicine. And what about those really weird cases where someone gets a head concussion or something and their personality is just TOTALLY different? I don't know if they remember their experiences but if they do, then I guess a lot of it is how we interpret our experiences, same picture different angle kind of thing.
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